As one of the oldest parts of Kansas City, established even before Missouri was a state, Westport has a rich history. 

The Beginnings of “West Port”

Kansas City’s Westport is a historic neighborhood with stories of battles, trading, and pioneers that helped shaped Kansas City – and more broadly, the American West. 

It began in 1831 when Reverend Isaac McCoy and his family set their roots in what would become Westport. Eventually, his son John Calvin McCoy, regarded as the ‘Father of Kansas City’ set up a trading post on what is now the heart of the district. 

McCoy was able to convince the riverboats on the Missouri River to unload their goods at a landing point close to Westport, rather than Independence where they had been docking.

This new landing area, located at the base of what today is Grand Avenue in River Market, allowed the boats to unload supplies and settlers closer to the trails. The landing site became known as the “Town of Kansas,” and eventually Kansas City. 

Westport – originally spelled West Port because it was the westernmost village where settlers stocked up before venturing into the Kansas Territory – became a bustling center for fur traders, farmers, and pioneers gearing up for their treacherous journeys west.

McCoy’s strategic positioning of Westport, near the Santa Fe, California, and Oregon Trails, turned this little town into a major outfitting point for those headed westward.

McCoy began laying out streets around his store as the area became a bustling trade center. The growth of the trading post brought about other businessmen to the area, like Albert Gallatin Boone, who built his own grocery on the corner opposite McCoy’s in 1850. The original building still stands as Kelly’s Westport Inn.

Civil War Impacts on Kansas City

After the prosperity of the 1850’s in Westport, the Civil War brought a mix of chaos and transformation. The Battle of Westport in 1864, often called “the Gettysburg of the West,” was a pivotal moment, marking the end of Civil War conflicts in this region. Although this battle was a historic event, it also signaled a decline in Westport’s economic vitality.

As Kansas City began expanding, it inevitably absorbed Westport in 1899. 

The history of Westport is still evident in the beautiful buildings lining the neighborhood’s busy streets. There are several historical markers around the district sharing information about the different buildings and sites. 

Included in this is Pioneer Park, at Westport Road and Broadway Boulevard. It was a joint project of the Westport Historical Society and the Native Sons of Kansas City.

It’s home to a statue of Alexander Majors, whose wagon trains carried goods and supplies westward on the trails; John Calvin McCoy, founder of Westport and co-founder of Kansas City; and Jim Bridger, famous mountain man, army scout and western trail blazer. There is also a terrazzo map of the three western trails that passed through the area. 

While Westport has transformed into one of Kansas City’s busiest entertainment districts, it still holds historical significance, and is a great visit during the daytime for anyone interested in Kansas City’s early days. 

What Is The Oldest Building In Westport?

The oldest building in Westport is the structure that currently houses Kelly’s Westport Inn. This building, with its deep-rooted history and pioneer charm, was built in 1851.

Throughout its life, this building has witnessed and adapted to the changing face of the city. In its early years, it served an essential role as a grocery store, catering to the needs of the wagon trains traveling along the Santa Fe Trail.

This trail, a vital route for westward expansion, passed right by the front door of the building, making it a commercial hub.

The building’s role evolved through the years, reflecting the changes in society and law. After the repeal of prohibition on August 11th, 1934, the building received a liquor license and became known as The “Wrestlers Inn” at Westport Road.

Since then, it has continuously operated as a saloon, becoming a beloved and iconic watering hole in Kansas City.

In recognition of its historical and cultural significance, the building was designated a national historic landmark in 1959. 

Modern-Day Westport

Today, Westport is known for its vibrant nightlife, eclectic dining, and unique shopping experiences

Planning to stay for a weekend? There are several hotels in the area that we recommend!